Strengthening Employer Relationships Through Effective Follow-Up

phone-cartoonConsultative Selling for Refugees, Part 4: Follow-up

During the optional day at our Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop last November, international job development consultant Allen Anderson gave 70+ refugee employment professionals a crash course on a model of Job Development known as Consultative Selling.

We’ve already shared a birds-eye-view of what Allen presented, but now we want to zoom in and talk about the model in more detail.

This is the final post of our 4-part series on Consultative Selling that looks at the basics of the model, as well as adaptations from refugee employment programs who have begun using it.

The “4-Step Road Map”

There are many facets to this model but the basic framework can be found in what Allen Anderson calls “The 4-Step Road Map.” These four steps include: Prospecting, Needs Analysis, Selling and Follow-up—in other words, the process of finding, developing and maintaining employer relationships.

Four-step Roadmap

In part one of this series we looked at Prospecting Strategies for identifying new employment opportunities. Prospecting can include making cold calls, visiting prospective employers or other types of initial outreach to local employers.

In part two, we discussed the Needs Analysis – the meeting where you sit down with an employer and ask them a series of questions in order to discover their important needs. You then use that information to identify clients that will meet a given employer’s needs.

Part three outlined strategies for Selling your solutions to employers.

In this post we’ll look at the final step in the model, Follow-up.

What is Follow-up?

Follow-up is the final stage of the Consultative Selling process. You’ve prospected and found the job opportunity. You’ve conducted a Needs Analysis to find out exactly what the employer needs and wants. You’ve sold them on your services and clients as the right solution. Now it’s time to deliver.

Follow-up is follow-through.

When most refugee employment professionals think of “follow-up”, they think of the job retention requirements of their respective employment programs. For example, following-up with employers and clients at 90 days to see if the client is still working is a common requirement and measure of employment retention.

These traditional follow-up procedures are helpful, but it’s easy to get in the rut of simply “checking the box”, and not think strategically about the intersection between post-employment follow-up and employer engagement.

The Consultative Selling model expands on the traditional approach to follow-up, focusing not just on meeting a requirement, but rather on cultivating long-term relationships with employers.

In Consultative Selling, Follow-up starts with delivering on what you promised (connecting an employer with a candidate who meets their needs and providing ongoing support as needed) and also includes ongoing efforts to keep employers engaged, thus creating opportunities for future business.

Follow-up in this model is about much more than checking a box; it’s about making successful placements that meet retention and result in long-term employer partnerships and ultimately, more job opportunities for our clients.

effective-follow-up

Delivering on What You Promised

Let’s be honest. As intimidating as job development can be, convincing an employer to hire a refugee is in some ways the easy part- or at least the part you have the most control over. Connecting the right client to the right job and trouble-shooting the challenges that often arise after clients begin working is often much harder.

Getting a job is one thing; keeping it is another.

With all of the challenges that our clients face in adjusting to a brand new culture we will never be able to guarantee that every placement will work out. Our long-time employer partners tend to understand that and have worked with enough refugees that have been amazing employees that an occasional hire who doesn’t work out won’t phase them.

But it’s a different ball-game when you’re working with an employer who is hiring a refugee for the first time. We all know that we need to do everything in our power to make that first placement a success, or that that employer may lose interest in working with us very quickly.

So what can you do to increase the chances of success, both for your clients and for your relationships with employers?

Here’s a few tips:

  • Be careful not to over-promise and under-deliver. During the selling stage (before follow-up) emphasize the breadth of skills that your clients can offer and your supportive services, but don’t sell the employer on specific clients until you are sure that the opportunity will work for the client(s) you have in mind.
  • Once the employer has committed to considering your client(s), ask for a little time to talk to the client(s) that you have in mind and to ensure that you are making the best match– but let the employer set the time frame. You’ve got to use your emotional intelligence to read the situation and know how much time to ask for. Maybe it’s the end of the day, by the next day, or by the end of the week, but the point is you buy yourself some time to double-check all the factors- that the client is able and willing to do the job, that their is a realistic plan for transportation (don’t forget to think about the shift client will be working), and that the job will provide the income required to meet the client’s needs. Taking this little bit of extra time is in the best interest of everyone involved.
  • Encourage the employer to interview a few different clients for the position(s), since they are the best judge of what they need. This will also help the employer be invested in hiring decision, and will minimize the possibility of all the blame being put on you if things don’t work out.
  • Use strategies such as mock interviews and skills tests (formal or otherwise) to predict client performance in interviews or on the job. For example, the Catholic Charities refugee employment program in Cleveland, OH works with some assembly factories, and some employers provide basic materials so that the employment program can identify promising candidates by testing clients on aptitude and speed in assembling materials.
  • When possible, arrange in-person tours of the work area for potential candidates so that clients understand what the job is and what will be required of them (before agreeing to accept the job).
  • Provide easy reference materials for employers that outline the supportive services that you provide and what to do when challenges arise or interpretation is needed. Don’t forget to include all the contact information for your employment program so that they will have your information at their fingertips next time they are ready to hire (and also so that the employer has more than one way to contact your team so that staff turn-over doesn’t result in lost employer connections).

Creating Opportunities for Future Business

Congratulations! You found the job, got to know the employer’s needs, sold them on your solutions, and delivered on what you promised! This is the beginning of a beautiful relationship…hopefully.

What can you do to build on that first placement and keep employers engaged so that next time they need to hire, they think of you?

Yes, you should still do those regular follow-ups! A quick follow-up (within the first week or two) with both employer and client after the initial hire is always a good idea just to quickly catch any problematic issues that may have come to light before they become big problems. And of course the traditional 30, 60, 90 day follow-ups are necessary and good.

But beyond the typical check-ins, here are some strategies that refugee employment programs around the country are using to stay connected to established employer partners while also creating opportunities for new connections:

  •  Job Fairs: Hosting job fairs can be a fantastic way to provide free access to great candidates for employers (the only cost is a couple hours of their time), and also provide an excellent opportunity for clients to build networking and interviewing skills in a safe space where they don’t have to compete with hundreds of other candidates.
  • Happy Hours: Who doesn’t love an invitation to a Happy Hour? IRC Baltimore put this strategy on our radar, and has found it to be a great way to connect with both new and established employer partners. Employers like it because it’s an easy way to stay connected to the IRC, but also a great opportunity to network with others in the community. To read more about this strategy, click here.
  • Employer Appreciation Events: We all like to be recognized. Help employers feel good about hiring refugees. Have an employer appreciation breakfast, lunch or dinner- whatever makes sense. Appreciating employers can be as simple as a thank you card with a Starbucks gift card or as elaborate as a plaque they receive at your annual fundraising banquet. For more employer appreciation ideas click here!
  • The “Candy bowl” Strategy: Provide a candy bowl for the reception area of employers you work with. They get candy. You get a regular excuse to visit them!
  • Get to Know Employer Hiring Trends: Many employer’s hiring seasons and hiring slow-downs are fairly predictable. Ask employers which months tend to be slow and which months they do a lot of hiring. Put notes on your calendar to set up meetings with employers right towards the end of the slow seasons, right before things are going to pick up again. This will show them that you are considerate of their time, and also positions you to be on their radar when it’s time to hire.
  • Go to their stuff! Look for opportunities to participate in community or networking events that your employment partners participate in. Volunteer with an employer partner. Speak at a professional association. Learn about their industry at events open to the public. Participate in your local Workforce Investment Board or Chamber of Commerce. And don’t forget your business cards!

As you can see from the above strategies, although follow-up (delivering on what you promised and creating opportunities for future business) may be the final step in the “4-Step Road Map” it may be more accurate to say that it is the final step in a cycle that resets the job development process, in which you return to prospecting (finding job opportunities) through strengthening relationships with established employer partners and working within those employer networks to make new connections.

What strategies do you use to deliver on what you promised and create opportunities for future business? Let us know at information@higheradvantage.org.

Providing and Selling Workforce Solutions

Source: www.thenest.com

Source: www.thenest.com

Consultative Selling for Refugees, Part 3: Selling

During the optional day at our Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop last November, international job development consultant Allen Anderson gave 70+ refugee employment professionals a crash course on a model of Job Development known as Consultative Selling.

We’ve already shared a birds-eye-view of what Allen presented, but now we want to zoom in and talk about the model in more detail.

This post is the third of a 4-part series that will share the basics of the model, as well as adaptations from refugee employment programs who have already been using it.

The “4-Step Road Map”

There are many facets to this model but the basic framework can be found in what Allen Anderson calls “The 4-Step Road Map.” These four steps include: Prospecting, Needs Analysis, Selling and Follow-up—in other words, the process of finding, developing and maintaining employer relationships.

Four-step Roadmap

In part one of this series we looked at Prospecting Strategies for identifying new employment opportunities. Prospecting can include making cold calls, visiting prospective employers or other types of initial outreach to local employers.

In part two, we discussed the Needs Analysis – the meeting where you sit down with an employer and ask them a series of questions in order to discover their important needs. You then use that information to identify clients that will meet a given employer’s needs.

In this post we’ll look at Selling (step three), which for many is the hardest part of the process.

What is Selling?

In the selling step, you present the employer with the solution to their needs- your candidate(s). You want the employer to see the value of working with you and your clients, even if your clients don’t fit the typical mold of candidates the employer has hired in the past.

Some consultative selling advocates, including Allen Anderson, believe eliminating the interview process is the objective of Selling. This means that the employer is ready to hire a candidate purely on your recommendation. The consensus among refugee employment staff is that a formal job interview remains important for our clients and also for most employers.

As RSSP Coordinator Valerie Evans from Catholic Charities Onondaga County in Syracuse, NY says: “Do the formal interview, even if the employer is willing to skip it- the practice is good for our clients!”

For clients, our goal is to provide them with the strongest possible foundation for long term career success.  This means they must develop strong interview skills so they can become increasingly independent from refugee resettlement services.

For employers, our goal is for them to be “sold” on partnering with us, and “sold” on refugees as a strategic workforce solution.

When is the Optimal Time for Selling?

Typically, Selling will happen in a separate meeting after the Needs Analysis. That being said, as we noted in part two, if you feel that you understand an employer’s needs and have a solution to offer, by all means, make the sale at the end of the Needs Analysis meeting. After all– “You snooze, you lose.”

Be very careful, however, not to over-promise and under-deliver. There are a number of factors to consider in matching the right client to the right job. It’s better to take some time to make sure you can confidently recommend someone than to rush a situation that is unlikely to be successful.

4 Key Strategies for Selling

Most refugee employment professionals have not had the opportunity to receive training in sales techniques, so Consultative Selling has a lot to offer when it comes to being strategic in conversations with employers.

Here are four initial strategies to get you started:

Strategy #1: Focus on what all employers need most.

Allen Anderson identifies four employee characteristics that are most important to employers. Employers want to hire people who are reliable, dependable, available and capable. According to Anderson, if you can present candidates who have these characteristics, employers will often overlook other employment barriers.

When you’re presenting candidates to employers, you want to focus on these characteristics and also go back to the specific needs that the employer shared during the Needs Analysis.

Lisa_cropped“Always go back to the Needs Analysis. Show employers that you are listening and responding to their needs. Be confident. You have something employers need!” –Lisa McClure, Job Developer, ECDC/ACC Denver

When employers see that your clients have the foundational characteristics that they look for in all employees as well as some of the specific skills needed for a current opening, the chances that they will want to move forward to an interview are high.

Strategy #2: Highlight needs, features, and benefits.

Another helpful strategy that you can use is to structure your presentation to an employer around the following three areas: employer needs (which you discovered in the Needs Analysis), client features (their skills), and the benefits an employer will receive from hiring your clients (e.g. not needing to worry about criminal backgrounds or legal status issues) and working with your agency.

Think of it like running around a baseball diamond:

Note: Needs, Features Benefits strategy by Allen Anderson; Baseball Diamond analogy and illustration by Daniel Wilkinson

Note: Needs, Features Benefits strategy by Allen Anderson/DTG-EMP; Baseball diamond analogy and illustration by Daniel Wilkinson/Higher

Make sure to put special emphasis on the benefits that the employer will receive by working with you as people tend to make decisions based on benefits rather than features (for more on this see this YouTube video from KO Sales Coach).

For example, an employer is likely to get more excited about a candidate who wants to stay at a job for a long time (benefit = saves the employer from frequent hiring/training costs) than they will about a candidate who speaks 4 languages (a feature).

Strategy #3: Anticipate objections and bring them up before the employer does.

If you’ve been doing refugee job development for a while, you know what the most common objections to hiring refugees are. But have you developed a plan for responding to these objections?

By anticipating and planning for objections, you “beat the employer to the punch”- you bring up the objection before they do.

For example, you know a lot of employers are going to say that they are concerned that people with limited English proficiency may not be able to work safely in their facility. So instead of waiting for them to bring up this concern, you might say:

“I know that a lot of employers are afraid to work with English language learners because of safety concerns. Safety is also very important to us and we certainly would not want to place our clients or any of your other employees in danger. Let me tell you about a few other employers that we’ve worked with in your industry and how we’ve supported them with the English issue…”

Your goal in anticipating objections is to put the employer’s mind at ease and assure them that you have their best interest in mind. By bringing up the objections that you know they are likely to have, you show them that you understand their concerns, and are already have solutions!

Strategy #4: Always ask for a decision- but be smart about the way you do it.

The hardest part of any sales conversation is asking someone to make a decision. It’s so much easier to be passive, say “thank you for your time” and walk out of a decision maker’s office not really knowing which way things are going.

Be bold and ask the employer when you can bring a few clients in for an interview.

Valerie Evans“Always ask for a decision. If they are not willing to give you a decision, ask when you should follow-up. Be proactive.” –Valerie Evans, RSSP Coordinator, Catholic Charities Onondaga County, Syracuse, NY

 

The big idea here is that you should always ask for a decision, but every conversation is different, and your approach with employers will differ slightly, depending on how open and interested they are. Here are a few tips (paraphrased from a recent DTG-EMP webinar) for asking for action from employers with varying levels of interest:

When the employer seems very positive – If the employer seems very engaged and you notice a lot of positive body language (e.g. smiling, eye contact, head nodding, etc.) assume they are on board and start making plans. (e.g. “I know Ahmed is available on Monday. Would you like to interview him then?”)

When the employer is hard to read or seems neutral- Just be brave, and ask them directly if they’d like to move forward and put an interview on the calendar so you can bring them some qualified candidates.

When the employer seems unconvinced or hesitant- Ask them if there is any information they need that you have not yet shared with them. You might also ask them what concerns them most about working with refugees. Understanding the employer’s barriers to hiring refugees is the first step to removing them.

Finally, suggest the employer give a tour to refugee candidates and do a hands-on work-related activity so that they can identify refugee candidates with the right mix of skills and personality. 

Resources for Learning More

If you’re new to this work, or new to Higher, be sure to sign up for our Online Learning Institute and check out our “Communicating with Employers” eLearning module.

You may also enjoy these two video posts on selling:

  • Selling Yourself in a Job Interview – If you are successful at selling, the next step is for clients to sell themselves. In this video a Congolese refugee resettled in Georgia explains the importance of selling yourself in a job interview.

We’re always interested in your good ideas and feedback! What strategies do you use to help overcome employer objections and sell them on your services and clients? Let us know at information@higheradvantage.org.

Note: The content of this post combined insights from training and resources from Allen Anderson/DTG-EMP as well as Higher’s Job Development Community of Practice.

Understanding Employers’ Needs and Providing Solutions

The perfect employee

Consultative Selling for Refugees, Part 2: Needs Analysis

During the optional day at our Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop last November, international job development consultant Allen Anderson gave 70+ refugee employment professionals a crash course on a model of Job Development known as Consultative Selling.

We’ve already shared a birds-eye-view of what Allen presented, but now we want to zoom in and talk about the model in more detail.

This post is the second of a 4-part series that will share the basics of the model, as well as adaptations from refugee employment programs who have already been using it.

The “4-Step Road Map”

There are many facets to this model but the basic framework can be found in what Allen Anderson calls “The 4-Step Roadmap.” These four steps include: Prospecting, Needs Analysis, Selling and Follow-up—in other words, the process of finding, developing and maintaining employer relationships.

Four-step RoadmapIn part one, we introduced Consultative Selling and the first step in “The 4-Step Roadmap”: Prospecting. Prospecting involves finding job opportunities and asking for an initial appointment.

In this post we’ll move on to step two, the Needs Analysis, and talk about what you actually do in that first appointment.

What is a Needs Analysis?

Michael ScottIn the Consultative Selling model, a Needs Analysis is a 30-60 minute appointment with the hiring decision maker(s). The objective of a Needs Analysis is to introduce yourself to the employer and to ask questions that help you understand the employer’s needs, values and goals.

Asking a hiring manager well-thought-out questions can help you bypass the “wish-list” of qualifications that are often listed on formal job descriptions and give you a clear picture of what an employer is really looking for.

The Needs Analysis will also help you identify the costs, benefits, and overall value that working with refugees will bring to the employer.

All of this information will help you evaluate whether or not you can provide a solution that will meet the employers stated needs or desires.

If the answer is no, you walk away. If it is yes, then you move on to the third step – Selling.

Key Needs Analysis Questions

“Questions are the gold mine of Job Development,” says Allen Anderson. Over time you will develop your own list of go-to questions that work for you, but here are some examples to get you started:

  • What positions exist at this company (not just current openings)?
  • What tasks are associated with these positions?
  • What skills-sets do you most need?
  • What is the most important characteristic you are looking for in employees?
  • What factors typically disqualify candidates from being selected?
  • What type of employees tend to advance in this company?
  • What challenges or frustrations do you face in finding or keeping good employees?

Should You Make the Sale During the Needs Analysis?

We’re not going to get into the “selling” step until the next post, but you may be wondering whether you should try to sell the employer on your services during this appointment or at a later time. Well, it depends. As Kenny Rogers says:

Kenny Rogers

Most of us have heard the expression “You snooze, you lose.” This is particularly true when it comes to employment opportunities. When an opportunity is there, you go for it, because it might not be there tomorrow.

If you feel that you understand an employer’s needs and have a solution to offer, by all means, make the sale during the Needs Analysis meeting. That being said, be very careful not to over-promise and under-deliver.

There are a number of factors to consider in matching the right client to the right job. It’s better to take some time to make sure you can confidently recommend someone than to rush a situation that is unlikely to be successful.

Observations & Adaptations for Refugee Employment

Refugee employment programs using the Consultative Selling approach say that the Needs Analysis is one the most helpful elements of the model, but have the following recommendations:

The whole process needs to move faster.

Consultative Selling is a strong model for building long-term relationships with employers but doesn’t necessarily emphasize the speed at which this happens. Newly arrived refugees must obtain employment very quickly, so finding ways to speed up the process is critical.

James LopezAfter working with the Consultative Selling model for a couple years, James Lopez, Job Developer at Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains in Greeley, CO, recommends being more conversational and less scripted as way to speed up the process during the Needs Analysis.

It’s good to be organized and ask good questions, but you also want the conversation to feel natural, and even enjoyable, to that employer. It’s important to build rapport as quickly as possible.

James also recommends finding creative ways to break into local employer networks beyond your meetings with hiring decision makers. Attending networking groups, setting up speaking engagements and leveraging your personal network can result in personal connections that become “champions” for refugees within local companies.

Refugee employment staff in other parts of the country who have recently begun implementing the Consultative Selling model are coming to similar conclusions:

Valerie EvansValerie Evans, RSSP Coordinator at Catholic Charities of Onondaga County in Syracuse, NY shares the experience her team as they’ve begun working with this model:

“We’ve incorporated the Needs Analysis into our meetings, but we’ve found employers need a quicker process. We’ve found that many employers are not willing to spend a whole hour in a Needs Analysis meeting.

Valerie also says that employers have responded well to a condensed Needs Analysis meeting with focused questions that quickly identify needs, such as “What are the top 3 things you look for in employees?” or “What are the top 3 things that will get you fired?”

While the primary focus of the Needs Analysis is the employer, providing some education and context on refugees is helpful.

The Consultative Selling approach is a shift for many refugee employment programs, but there are some things that we’ve done for a long time that we should continue to do.

One of these long-time strategies is providing employers with a basic orientation to refugees either verbally or through a well-designed brochure. The Needs Analysis meeting is a good opportunity to do this.

Brochure-Photo

It may be strategic to share this information towards the end of the Needs Analysis meeting since some of the information you will share will be the selling points of working with refugees (e.g. legal status, retention rates, work ethic, etc.).

Perhaps you can use this information to transition to selling, whether you make the sale in the Needs Analysis meeting or at a later time.

Needs Analysis Tips

Here are a few more tips from James Lopez at LFSRM to keep in mind when conducting Needs Analysis meetings:

  • Focus on the “Three P’s”: Process, Policies, and Personal Relationship – Your success depends on the employer trusting you.
  • Use intelligent questions to keep the conversation on track and keep it focused on employer needs.
  • Avoid asking “why” questions – these can give the impression that you are criticizing and can make employers defensive.
  • End the conversation with action steps – come to an agreement with the employer about what you will do next and what the timeline will look like.
  • Remember that it often takes between 5-7 points of contact before an employer hires someone. Be prepared to have several conversations, and make sure that you are confident before presenting a solution to the employer. Don’t feel bad about asking more questions or getting clarification on things after the initial Needs Analysis appointment.
  • Remember to take a consultative approach: You’re not just selling employers on your clients, but you are also selling them on the supportive services that you can offer both before and after they hire your clients.

 We hope that this post has been helpful for you. Keep us posted as you experiment with Needs Analysis meetings and perfect your technique: information@higheradvantage.org.

*Many thanks to Allen Anderson of DTG-EMP, James Lopez at Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains in Greeley, CO, and Valerie Evans at Catholic Charities of Onondaga County in Syracuse, NY. Their valuable insights made this post possible.

 

 

 

Hitting the Target: Prospecting Techniques That Work

Consultative Selling for Refugees, Part One

Omaha Photo Collage

Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop, Omaha, NE / Illustration by Gary Phelps at EWARM in Wichita, KS

During the optional day at our Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop last November, international job development consultant Allen Anderson gave 70+ refugee employment professionals a crash course on a model of Job Development known as Consultative Selling.

We’ve already shared a birds-eye-view of what Allen presented, but now we want to zoom in and talk about the model in more detail.

This post is the first of a 4-part series that will share the basics of the model, as well as adaptations from refugee employment programs who have already been using it.

The “4-Step Roadmap”

 There are many facets to this model but the basic framework can be found in what Allen Anderson calls “The 4-Step Roadmap.” These four steps include: Prospecting, Needs Analysis, Selling and Follow-up—in other words, the process of finding, developing and maintaining employer relationships.

Four-step Roadmap

Let’s get started with a basic introduction to Consultative Selling and then zero in on the first step in the “The 4-Step Roadmap”: Prospecting.

What is Consultative Selling?

BusinessDictionary.com defines Consultative Selling as “Personal selling in which a salesperson plays the role of a consultant. He or she first assists the buyer in identifying his or her needs, and then suggests products that satisfy those needs.”

This approach has been around since the 1970s, and has gradually gained popularity among employment service professionals as a strategy to build long-term partnerships with employers.

For those serving populations with significant employment barriers, Consultative Selling also provides a framework that allows them to make the case that they can provide motivated, dependable and reliable workers that meet the needs of the employer (despite the fact that some of these workers may not fit the mold of who the employer would typically hire).

What is Prospecting?

Prospecting Post ItProspecting is the first step in the Consultative Sales process. Prospecting, broadly speaking, is the act of looking for something valuable (e.g. prospecting for gold). In our case, the valuable thing we are searching for is job opportunities for our clients. So when we say prospecting, we mean how you go about finding those opportunities.

Prospecting is making first contact with an employer to get basic information about job opportunities (both advertised and “hidden”). At this point, you’re not necessarily selling an employer on your services or clients– you’re simply trying to find job openings.

Random Lead Generation vs. Targeted Lead Generation

Prospecting can be random or targeted. Random lead generation is when you find a list of employers in your region and just start making phone calls. This approach can be very effective in identifying “hidden” (unadvertised) jobs, and may open up opportunities with employers that you were unaware of or assumed would not have jobs that fit your client’s needs.

Targeted lead generation is where you make cold calls to employers in a particular industry or smaller geographical area based on the needs or skills of your clients. For example you may choose to target employers near where your clients live or employers within an industry that your clients have experience in.

Traditional Prospecting vs. Non-traditional Prospecting

ProspectingTraditional prospecting combines information gathering about job opportunities and a request for an appointment (step 2 in the 4-Step Roadmap: the “Needs Assessment”). While this approach can be effective and time efficient, it can also shut down the conversation too early if employers don’t feel like listening to a sales pitch or if there are no job openings at the moment.

Pushing for an appointment in the first phone call also forces you to make a quick decision about whether or not an opportunity should be pursued, which may result in chasing down opportunities that don’t really make sense for your clients.

Non-traditional Prospecting involves splitting the prospecting steps by using one phone call as a kind of survey to identify opportunities, and then following up with a second phone call and request for an appointment to the employers that you want to target.

This approach has several advantages (duties can be divided; space to identify which employers you want to target; the opportunity to go into meetings with foundational knowledge about their needs). The downside is that making two calls will take more time and potentially more manpower.

There are times to use both approaches. It’s up to you to decide what makes sense for your team.

First Contact: What do you say?

Here are some basic prospecting questions:

  • Are you hiring?
  • What positions?
  • How much does it pay?
  • Who is the hiring manager?
  • Has the job been advertised?

You may ask more or less than these questions, but your main objective is to gather preliminary data that will help you decide whether or not an opportunity is worth pursuing. You also want to get the name and contact information of the hiring manager whenever possible.

Observations & Adaptations from Colorado & Nebraska

Refugee employment colleagues from both Colorado and Nebraska who have been working with this model for a few years now agree that they have had more success with targeted lead generation rather than random lead generation.

They cite the following reasons for preferring a targeted approach:

  • A strong local economy – Both Colorado and Nebraska have low unemployment rates and ample job opportunities. Refugee employment programs in these states already have strong relationships with employers, and have not needed to rely on random lead generation to find opportunities.
  • When they did experiment with random lead generation, the “hidden” jobs they found often were not a good fit for refugee job seekers
  • Targeted lead generation produced better results because it focused the prospecting process on employers/jobs that fit typical client skills and are closer to clients’ homes or accessible by public transportation.

This is not to say that random lead generation would never prove useful, but so far, the targeted approach seems to be bringing in more jobs that work for refugees.

Targeted lead generation also seems to be the way to go if you have a small employment staff or if you are in a smaller community. James Lopez, Job Developer at Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains in rural/suburban Greeley, CO strongly recommends the targeted approach:

James Lopez_cropped“I schedule out time each week to target neighborhoods or industries that would be a good fit for my clients. Instead of feeling like I need to call 100 different businesses each day, I spend a few hours per week and gets the results that I need.” -James Lopez

How many calls are needed to produce results?

Staff from Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska report that 20 phone calls typically result in 2-3 strong leads.

This matches up with Allen Anderson’s statistic that generally 10% to 20% of total calls will generate leads (although he advises that it will typically take 50 phone calls to start generating this type of percentage).

Tips for Prospecting

Carol Tucker, Job Developer at Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska in Omaha shared the following tips for prospecting:

  • Create a documentation system for your team to track your prospecting efforts
  • Familiarize your team with your prospecting process
  • Set weekly goals and plan your prospecting strategy
  • Don’t forget to leverage your personal and professional connections (friends, family, development department, board members, etc.)
  • Engage with employers on social media (facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)

Carol Tucker“Be spontaneous. Always carry business cards and keep your eyes open- opportunities can be anywhere.” -Carol Tucker

 

Tools for prospecting

One tool that has been helpful for Carol and her teammates is ReferenceUSA, an online database of local employers that you can access through your local library website. Most libraries are ReferenceUSA subscribers. This tool allows you to search for employers by zip code, and obtain other employer information.

If your library does not subscribe to ReferenceUSA or if you want to target high growth industries in your area, explore the online tools we highlighted in our recent Workforce Resource post to learn about high growth industries and employers in your area.

Finally, if you are looking for jobs close to home or easily accessible by public transportation for your clients, try these 4 Mapping Strategies for Employer Outreach.

Let us know what prospecting techniques you use, or what results you see from trying the techniques outlines in this post: information@higheradvantage.org.

*Many thanks to Allen Anderson of DTG-EMP and the dedicated refugee employment staff at the ECDC African Community Center in Denver, CO; Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska in Omaha; and Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains in Denver and Greeley, CO. Their valuable insights made this post possible.